x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Nokia mobiles take aim at 'monochromatic slabs'

The world's biggest mobile manufacturers are battling it out to see who will have the year's top-selling device, and the survival of some depends on whether or not they can beat the competition.

Stephen Elop introduces the new Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 Windows 8 smartphones. Getty Images / AFP
Stephen Elop introduces the new Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 Windows 8 smartphones. Getty Images / AFP

NEW YORK CITY // The world's biggest mobile manufacturers are battling it out to see who will have the year's top-selling device, and the survival of some depends on whether or not they can beat the competition.

At splashy events held simultaneously in New York City and Helsinki, Nokia unveiled its latest mobiles, including the Lumia 920, which features new Windows Phone 8 software from its partner Microsoft as well as the ability to refuel wirelessly on a charging pad, a stabilised camera and navigation maps that can be accessed even when someone is offline. Both Virgin Atlantic and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf have partnered with Nokia to provide the wireless base chargers in certain airport lounges and cafes around the world.

"From a design perspective, the Lumia 920 is a smartphone that proudly stands apart from the crowd," said Kevin Shields, a senior vice president at Nokia.

Yet Nokia risks losing steam with its announcement today, as numerous competitors jump into the fray with their own new offerings this month.

Motorola, which is owned by Google, is also expected to unveil a new mobile today in New York City, while the industry's most anticipated announcement - about the newest iPhone - is expected from Apple next week.

Last week, Samsung debuted the Galaxy Note 2, an updated version of its popular tablet phone. Analysts expect it will be a popular pick among consumers, especially as the company's sales of mobiles continues to grow.

Earlier this year, Samsung became the biggest mobile maker in the world - knocking Nokia out of the top spot for the first time in 14 years.

But with losses mounting, Nokia arguably has the most to lose if it cannot get consumers to "switch to Lumia" products, as Jo Harlow, an executive vice president at Nokia puts it.

Sales for the Finnish-based handset maker, including in the Middle East, have dwindled dramatically in recent quarters. Globally, it sold 83.4 million mobiles during the second quarter this year, down from 97.8 million a year earlier, according to research data from Gartner. Sales in the Middle East have also been falling, and more dramatically than the global average.

Nokia has taken drastic action this year by announcing that it wil cut 10,000 jobs worldwide by the end of next year.

"We have taken actions to make Nokia a more nimble competitor," said Stephen Elop, Nokia's chief executive, in New York City today. "While we're going through a remarkable transition at Nokia, we are focused on making progress."

Executives at the company are betting that shoppers will want the Lumia 920 and its many customisable options, both through Microsoft's new software but also from an array of colour options - unlike "monochromatic slabs", Mr Shields noted in a jab likely aimed at Apple.

Still, analysts are waiting to see how Nokia's latest line-up will perform in retail stores to see how the company may fare over the long-run.

"Nokia needs to wow consumers with the next generation Lumia so that the Nokia brand gains strength," says Carolina Milanesi, a research vice president for consumer technologies at Gartner. "Marketing and brand are the two biggest issues for Nokia as it needs to make its brand sexy again and this is a big challenge."

nparmar@thenational.ae